Thursday, May 16, 2013

A New Journey: Life Without Medication

My doctor and I decided that it was time to start tapering off of my prescription anti-depressant drugs.  In the beginning, I thought I would have to take the pills forever.  But in most cases, people struggling with depression only have to take the meds for a year or two.  Click here to read my myth busting post about anti-depressants.

Since I began taking the anti-depressants, I have stopped a lot of bad habits and developed good habits (healthy coping skills) to deal with my anxiety and depression.  I am ready to see if I can stay that way without the drugs.

I am still going to monitor my symptoms and take care of myself by going to counseling, eating nourishing foods, exercising to enhance my life, and other self-help practices.  I don’t want to make the same mistakes and end up in the hospital again.

My new treatment plan includes:
Eat regular meals
Eat nourishing foods that I like and that make me feel good
Moderate exercise 3 days a week for 20 minutes if I can
Frequent activities and hobbies that I enjoy (and things that give me a sense of purpose)
Try to get eight hours of sleep a night
Limited caffeine
Limited stressful activities and commitments
Absolutely NO alcohol
These changes are not major for me.  I am already doing everything I listed above, and I have been for some time now.  All those things are ways that I take better care of myself.  From experience, I know that those things help me feel better and keep the depression symptoms from coming back. 

The only major change coming up is that I am not popping the little green and off-white pill at eight o’clock every morning any more.

Without the medication, I don’t think that I could have made all those healthy changes.  But now it is time to see if I can still take care of myself while I am off the drugs.  Should I not be able to function without the drugs and my symptoms return, then I will have to get back on the meds.  And that is OK.  I am going to rely on the things I have learned, my husband, my support system, and my counselor to help me monitor my progress and determine whether or not I am on the right path.  If my symptoms return, then I will cross that bridge when it’s time. 

How I was taking care of myself several years ago:
Eating sporadically or only when I “had” to (meaning to keep myself from passing out)
Eating low-calorie, fat-free foods only
Excessive work-outs for 2-3 hours a day
Abuse of diuretics
Long hours at a high-stress job
Sacrificing sleep so I could exercise before work
5-6 cups of coffee a day

I don’t want to go back to the way I was.  Should any of these bad habits return, I am going to see my doctor again.  I know that those unhealthy habits will only lead me to depression, despair, and suicidal tendencies.

All things considered, I am optimistic.  I think everything will turn out fine.  I know that I am the same person now and I’ll be the same person when I am off the meds.

However, I am also not na├»ve.  It is not all of a sudden going to be hearts, stars, and butterflies.  I know that there will still be times of stress, suffering, and bad days.  And that is OK.

So, if you notice my writing starting to take a downhill plunge, don’t be afraid to speak up.  Just kidding.  Most likely, if I start to relapse, I will stop writing altogether.

When I came home from the hospital last summer, I was advised to put together some information for easy access.  Because I always go above and beyond, I created a pamphlet that anyone in the Tri-county area could use for a format.  Click here to take a look.

I advise anyone struggling with depression and anxiety to make a similar document.  Feel free to copy my format, if you like.  I had mine taped to our refrigerator for months.  Now it is taped to the inside of the desk cupboard; forever there if I need it.

I hope this is helpful information.  I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through.  But unfortunately (or fortunately), it does take hitting rock bottom before a change can occur.

Remember, God can bring a greater good out of every bad situation.  He will never abandon you no matter how alone you feel.


  1. I hope the transition goes smoothly, Mary. You're an inspiration.

    1. Thank you! Pray for me! I'll pray for you.

  2. You seem very committed to your recovery, I trust your transition will go smoothly. I've been medicine free for 4 years, have hit some low points, but managed to be high functioning without them, or was at least told that by pscyholgists. Some recovery tools as you mentioned have been really helpful, Buddhist teachings have been particularlly helpful for me in navigating my experience with depression and getting support from others:). Thanks for sharing your story, I appreciate it a lot:).

    1. Thank you for your comment. I am so glad that you have found recovery. Religion has greatly helped me in my recovery as well. It gives me a lot of hope to meet people who have struggled with some of the same things I have and yet recovered. Thank you for sharing that with me. Have a nourishing weekend!